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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Saturday / July 22.
  • Bob Hurley, St. Anthony’s Taking 40-Game Winning Streak Into Brutal Stretch

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    The last time Bob Hurley and the St. Anthony’s Friars lost a basketball game, it was March 14, 2015.

    That came against a Roselle Catholic team led by Isaiah Briscoe in the New Jersey Non-Public B title game in Toms River.

    For a frame of reference, the last time St. Anthony’s lost, Donald Trump was three months away from announcing his candidacy for President.

    Now, nearly two years since that Roselle Catholic loss, the Friars have won 40 straight games after edging a tough Blair Academy team, 52-48, on Sunday at the Hoops to Help Basketball Showcase at the County College of Morris.

    The winning streak includes a perfect 32-0 campaign last season that resulted in the school’s 13th New Jersey Tournament of Champions title and an 8-0 start to the 2016-17 campaign.

    Keep in mind that St. Anthony’s has accomplished this feat while facing a severe financial crisis that requires the school to raise $10-$20 million or risk shutting down after the school year.

    Amazingly, the current 40-game winning streak pales in comparison to the 83-game winning streak the team piled up a few years ago before losing to a Tyler Ennis-led St. Benedict’s Prep team on Feb. 1, 2013.

    Now here comes the next wave of young challengers.

    On Tuesday, St. Anthony’s will face the Ranney School – which features super-sophomores Scottie Lewis and Bryan Antoine — in a rescheduled game at the Hoop Group Boardwalk Showcase.

    If the Friars get through that one unscathed, they will take a 41-game winning streak into a brutal matchup with arch-rival The Patrick School — and its five Division I-bound seniors — on Saturday at the Dan Finn Classic in Jersey City. The Patrick School is the No. 1 team in New Jersey and the favorite to win this year’s TOC.

    And oh by the way, the Friars on Monday then head up to the Hoophall Classic at the Hall of Fame to face Alabama-bound shooting guard John Petty and Jemison (AL) High School.

    “This is for us, we’re treating it like the state tournament well in advance,” Hurley told me Monday morning by phone when he was, not surprisingly, watching film.

    Hurley said his team was “very fortunate” that the Ranney game was postponed from Saturday to Tuesday due to snow.

    “If we had to play Ranney on Saturday and come back and play Blair on Sunday, it would have been an extremely difficult weekend,” he said. “But the way it turned out, with the snow on Saturday and the thing being cancelled, we had a chance to just play Blair without having to play R.J. Cole 32 minutes and then come back the next day.”

    Cole is the team’s leader and best player who chose Howard University over Monmouth and Boston University in September.

    Now here comes the Ranney school, led by Lewis and Antoine, two players who are being recruited by the likes of Kentucky, Duke, Florida, Maryland, Villanova, St. John’s, Rutgers and Seton Hall.

    “They’re terrific young players,” Hurley said. “They’re young, but they’re already on the big stage. They’re already very comfortable. They don’t play like sophomores and it will be the next good test for us.”

    After Ranney, Hurley will have three whole days to prepare for a Patrick School team that has five D-1 signees in guards Jamir Harris (Minnesota) and Marcus McClary (Monmouth) and bigs Nick Richards (Kentucky) and Buay Koka and Bul Ajang (Tulane).

    “You gotta get ready for Saturday who will be the best of the three [opponents] and have a day and then go up and play Jemison from Alabama with Petty,” Hurley said.

    “It’s like playing the entire state tournament in like nine days.”

    If St. Anthony’s somehow manages to come through this stretch of games with its winning streak intact, it will only add to the resume of Hurley, one of just three high school coaches in the Naismith Hall of Fame.

    Even if the team goes, say, 3-1 (perhaps losing to The Patrick School), it would be an impressive feat because this is hardly Hurley’s most talented team. The roster isn’t exactly stacked with D-1 players.

    “In order for us to have a chance against all these teams, we need R.J. to have the kind of games he had in bigger games,” Hurley said. “Does the job defensively against the other team’s guard, gets somewhere in the 20s and kind of runs the show for us, which takes a lot of pressure off the other kids.

    “We win because we don’t have to score a ton of points because our defense is always good. If R.J. can get in the 20s we need the rest of the group to just relax and play and then with that formula, we’ll be in most games.”

     

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    Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.